Founding Fathers: The Birth of the U.S.A.

The Declaration of Independence officially ended America’s status as a British colony. The pathway to the Declaration was long and arduous, and the document was, in fact, made after America and Britain were already at war. In the years leading up to the Declaration, the American colonies had grown quite independent of the British monarch. After finding itself deep in debt, Britain sought to re-establish its control over the colonies by assessing heavy taxes and requiring colonials to house British soldiers. When the colonials requested parliamentary representation and were refused, they responded by declaring independence. From here derives the motto “No taxation without representation.”

Infuriated by the British monarch’s refusing their request for representation, representatives from the 13 American colonies met to discuss potential responses. This meeting is referred to as the Second Continental Congress. At this meeting, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were chosen to write a document establishing America’s independence. In turn, Franklin, Sherman, Livingston and Adams assigned the task to Jefferson. Working independently, Jefferson authored a first draft over a period of 17 days, submitting his work to the other representatives on July 1, 1776. During the next two days the representatives edited Jefferson’s work before finally meeting on July 4th and signing the document.

The Declaration’s importance derives not only from its existence, but also from its eloquent wording about the inalienable rights of humankind. Perhaps the best-known and most memorable sentence appears in the second paragraph: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” However, the last sentence of the declaration also receives accolades as an indication of the American spirit in the tumultuous time: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Diving Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."These words demonstrate the bond between the representatives and the seriousness with which they took their behavior. The Declaration was never intended to be a statement of disregard for order and laws, but rather one establishing the belief that those laws should be justly created and imposed.

Among the 56 signatures of the Declaration are many of America’s Founding Fathers. Scientist, writer and social activist Benjamin Franklin’s name graces the bottom of the page. Included are the father and son who both were elected president, John and John Quincy Adams. Marked too is the signature of the fourth President of the United States, James Madison. The first signature on the document, and perhaps the most notable for its size and flourish, was put there by none other than John Hancock, the man many credit with encouraging the revolution. Of course, writer and inventor Thomas Jefferson also added his name to the document he authored.

While the public responded to the July 4th public readings of the document jubilantly, several Continental Congress members did not share in the joy. These members believed that redress of their grievances should be handled in a way other than declaring independence, and that declaring oneself not under the control of a king was unnatural. And the British? Well, they responded by declaring war.

Since its creation, the Declaration has stood as an example of the spirit and brotherhood that was the foundation of the American nation. From it derives the essentials of the policies and practices of the American government. Today, the original document sits carefully protected and guarded in the National Archives in Washington D.C. To learn more about the Declaration of Independence, visit the websites below.

  • U.S. Constitution: In-depth description of the events leading to the creation of the Declaration of Independence.
  • History Central: Explanation of the events leading to the Revolutionary War.
  • History Place: Timeline of events leading to the Revolutionary War.
  • The American Revolution: Description of events preceding the declaration of war.
  • U.S. History: Explanation of the Second Continental Congress.
  • Multiple renderings of the Declaration along with information about its creation and signatories.
  • Library of Congress: The document itself and related papers.
  • Library of Congress American Memory: The Declaration and copies of other documents created at the First and Second Continental Congress.
  • Independence National Park: In-depth discussion and description of the initial authoring and editing of the Declaration.
  • The National Archives: Depiction of the Declaration along with information about the founding fathers. 
  • The Laws of Nature and Nature's God: Richard Huenefeld: The Unalienable Right of Property; Its Foundation, Erosion and Restoration.  
  • Early America: Thorough investigation of American life at the time of the Declaration, including discussion of the Declaration and Thomas Jefferson. 
  • Founding Fathers: Information on America’s most influential men.
  • The White House: Listing of all American Presidents, including those who became such after signing the Declaration of Independence.
  • Colonial Hall: Biographies of the founding fathers. 
  • Montpelier: James Madison’s home now managed by an organization dedicated to his life and principles.
  • Monticello: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
  • The Miller Center: Information about John Adams including his famous speeches.
  • American Presidents: Information about John Quincy Adams.
  • History of War: British response to the Declaration. Site also includes information about the events leading up to the war.